iPhone 5: First Impressions of Apple's New Bigger, Faster Phone

A first look at Apple's new faster, larger, and thinner phone.

ByABC News
September 12, 2012, 5:50 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 12, 2012 — -- When you follow rumors and reports about one piece of technology for months, you hear a lot of hype. And I mean a lot of hype.

This phone -- the iPhone 5 -- is going to be the phone of all phones. It's going to be so much faster than anything else. It's going to make the old iPhone look like my Mini Disc player from middle school.

Today, Apple did in fact announce the iPhone 5, and after all those months of rumors, it was exactly what we thought it would be. It has a new design, a larger 4-inch display, a new dock connector, LTE, a faster processor, and Apple's new iOS 6 operating system.

But when I finally got it in my hand, did it live up to the months of hype?

The first thing I noticed about the phone was not the bigger screen, but actually the modified design. The thinner body and aluminum back plate are enough to give it an entirely new aesthetic, and there's only one way to say it: It's beautiful.

Click Here for Pictures: the New iPhone 5

While other phones, like Samsung's Galaxy S 3, are built of plastic, this phone feels and looks much higher-end. The metal makes it feel really substantial in hand, yet the phone is very light. Gone is the glass from the back of the iPhone 4S -- think of all the time you will have now save not having to clean off fingerprints.

The 4-inch screen does make the phone taller, but the size actually feels just right. It's not as large or wide as the 4.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S 3, meaning you can more easily stretch your thumb across the screen. The bigger screen allows another row of icons when you're on the home screen. You can see more of web pages. You get a wider keyboard when you hold the phone horizontally. The screen also seems brighter and crisper than the one on its predecessor, even though the pixel density is the same.

A lot of the improvements happen inside, with a faster processor and faster data speeds. The phone did seem faster, and it was most visible because of LTE data transmission. The AT&T unit I got to play with was beyond snappy at bringing up web pages; ABCNews.com's desktop site popped up within a couple of seconds.

I also saw the processing speeds at play with the new Maps app. The 3-D view of New York City popped up as soon as I searched for it and the 3-D rendering of the Empire State building was flawless as I pinched and zoomed around it.

And then there is the camera. While I didn't have time to test photo quality, I did get to play around with the new Panorama feature and it stitched together a photo of the room instantly. No waiting for it to process as with some third-party apps.

Click Here for a Panoramic Image

Of course, there is the new dock connector. It had been widely expected -- and dreaded by many -- and now that it is a reality it is even more disappointing. While it was necessary to make it smaller, all those white cords people have used with the old 30-pin connector will be useless. Apple will be selling adapters for your old cords so you can use them with the new phone, but they cost $29.99. That's a lot of money for a small dongle.

So, did the iPhone 5 live up to the hype for me, after all the months of rumor watching? The phone is exactly what I thought it would be -- faster, beautiful, and slightly bigger -- and in the end that's perfectly okay with me. And I imagine it will be with many others.